TORONTO -- There is little argument about what has kept the Angels in the American League West race this season. Their pitching, backed by superb defense, has excelled.
Entering Monday, only the Rays' staff had held opponents to two or fewer runs on more occasions than the Angels, who were tied with the Tigers for second in this department according to STATS Inc. Tampa Bay had done it 58 times, the Angels and Tigers 55 times.
Toronto's pitching hasn't been nearly as good, but former Cal State Fullerton star Ricky Romero -- who opposed Jerome Williams in Monday night's series opener at Rogers Centre -- has done his part. Romero has been especially lethal against the AL West.
Romero's 2.36 career ERA against the AL West is the third best among all active pitchers and lowest among starters. He trails only relievers Joe Nathan (1.77) and Matt Thornton (2.14). Right behind Romero is legendary Mariano Rivera (2.66).
With a 3.58 team ERA, the Angels are tied with the Rays for the top spot in the AL. The Halos' .985 fielding percentage leaves them tied for third with the Red Sox and Royals, behind the Rays and White Sox.
Kendrick making case for Gold Glove
TORONTO -- There was a time, not that long ago, when Howard Kendrick aspired to be an adequate defensive second baseman.
If the statistical data accumulated by Fangraphs.com culminating in UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) is on the money, nobody is better at the position in 2011 than the Angels' primary second baseman.
Boston's Dustin Pedroia has a higher overall UZR than Kendrick, but Kendrick's fewer appearances at the position -- he has played first and left field as well as second this season -- account for the discrepancy.
Based on 150 games, Kendrick moves to the top of the list in the Majors with a 23.0 rating, compared to Pedroia's 20.7. Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips, third in the Majors, is far behind Pedroia and Kendrick at 10.6.
Pedroia is the overall leader (17.4 to 15.0) largely because he has played 1,301 innings at second compared to Kendrick's 877.
Peter Bourjos trails only Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury in the UZR center-field ratings in the American League. Bourjos is third overall, with Arizona's Chris Young second.
Kendrick, Bourjos and shortstop Erick Aybar are the leading Angels in the controversial WAR (wins above replacement) ratings. Aybar ranks ahead of Jimmy Rollins, Derek Jeter and Asdrubal Cabrera at his position. Kendrick trails only Pedroia and Ian Kinsler, while Bourjos is tied for seventh among center fielders.
Aybar opening eyes with hot streak
TORONTO -- While Angels shortstop Erick Aybar drew headlines with his huge game Sunday in Baltimore, pounding two homers and two doubles while scoring five runs and driving in four, it wasn't out of the blue.
Aybar has been hot for a while. He has reached base in 30 consecutive games, the longest current streak in the American League. Only the Cardinals' Albert Pujols, with a 34-game streak, and the Cubs' Starlin Castro (31 games) have exceeded Aybar's level of consistency.
Aybar, co-AL Player of the Week with Detroit's Justin Verlander, is batting .434 in 53 at-bats this month. Rebounding from an injury-plagued 2010, Aybar has established career highs in homers (10), doubles (31) and steals (28). His 49 extra-base hits are third among AL shortstops.
In spite of his hot streak, Aybar -- hitting .211 against lefties compared to .313 against right-handers -- was placed eighth in the lineup Monday night against Jays southpaw Rickey Romero.
As Mark Trumbo goes, so go the Angels. Entering Monday, the rookie first baseman was batting .316 with 20 homers and 61 RBIs in Angels victories. Those numbers fall dramatically in their losses. He's a .182 hitter with seven homers and 21 RBIs.
Thieves at work: The Angels could finish the season with as many as eight players in double figures in steals. Entering Monday, they had four -- Aybar (28), Bobby Abreu and Bourjos (21) and Kendrick (13) -- with Trumbo (nine), Vernon Wells and Maicer Izturis (eight each) and Alberto Callaspo (seven) within range.
With Mike Trout nursing a bruised left leg, Abreu got his first start against a lefty (Toronto's Romero) in three weeks Monday. It last occurred Aug. 26 against the Rangers' Derek Holland. Abreu was hitting .236 against lefties compared to .261 against right-handers. His double Sunday in Baltimore gave him at least 30 for the 12th time in his career. He's 25th all-time in that department.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.